history

What’s Old is Now New Again

Warning: This post is about to get political.


I spent the 4th of July watching WWII movies.

The world had become a terrifying place. In the last two years we have seen so many awful changes in the US. There’s more violence. People struggle to meet ends meet as industries not supported by the current government begin to shrink and healthcare costs soar even higher. The news is full of horrible events at home and abroad, twisted by propaganda.

While whites celebrated independence, people of color worried about being shot by police for existing. Asylum seekers wondered when or if they would see their children again, and the White House announced it was forming a task force to revoke citizenship from naturalized Americans (I’m not going to go into all the issues with this, but suffice to say they are targeting people whose names/name formats don’t translate properly and calling it fraud).

Students of history will recognize this pattern. It exactly mirrors what the Nazi’s did in 1930s Germany (you can find more information here).

It’s a distressing, scary pattern. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the period from 1860-1945 for my books, and there are so many things similar to what we are facing today. Racial tension. The fear of communism and socialism. Women’s autonomy. Immigration. The economy. But it seems clear that the people at the top, the ones who have the ability to create direct change through policy, have never studied history–or are more interested in personal wealth than the well being of the nation as a whole. And the ones who often say they are really only mean the white portions  of the population.

I know I come from a very privileged background. I’m white. I was raised Protestant in a middle class family, and I’m education. But I’ve also spent the last ten years trying to deprogram myself and unpack the racism and bigotry I was raised with. I currently survive on a very modest income that does not support our household, no matter how tightly we budget. I work two jobs and know that I will never be able to pay off my student loans, buy a house, or move to the places where I want to live. The only reason I am able to receive treatment for my mental health issues and other health problems is because of the ACA.

The only reason I am even here is because of the open border policies of the 1970s/80s, when my mom first came to the US. The idea of having her taken away–or when I was a child–brings me to tears. I cannot imagine the pain and fear the children and adults currently being held by ICE and Border Patrol are feeling.

For two years, I have been unable to watch anything relating to WWII because it brought that pain and fear home to me in a way that prior to the 2016 election was only theoretical. I could have empathy for Anne Frank or the characters in the many movies and television programs I watched. I could feel pity for soldiers recounting their stories for PBS and BBC documentaries. But I understand what it feels like now to walk down the street watching for the police, waiting for them to attack. I know what it feels like to apply for aid and then wonder how long it will be before someone shows up at my door, not only taking away that aide, but demanding a visible sign that I need it, or taking me away altogether due to my political views or something I’ve written.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but am I, really? Look at the image on the left, and tell me that most if not all of those things haven’t already happened.

This is even reflected in our fashions. During the Great Depression and WWII as insecurity flared, women’s hemlines dropped significantly lower than they had been at their peak in 1928. Today, we have the longest average hemlines since the 1930s.

Lately I’ve been working on updating my wardrobe. I’ve been doing this with new, thrifted, altered, and handmade pieces all reflecting a vintage look. Some of those looks have been more true to period than others, but my inspiration has been everything from the 1910s through the early 1960s. If you’ve been to any of my author events, you know the dress I set aside for these events looks very Downton Abbey, a full length lace dress in a 1915-1918ish silhouette. On my birthday, I wore a Rockabilly style dress with a 1950s inspiration. I have two sewing projects I’m working on right now that were influenced by the shapes of the 1940s.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post. It’s just something that has been on my mind since the 4th. When I watch shows like Home Fires, it always appears that there are specific steps the people on the homefront can take. I know that to live through it must have been a very different experience, full of uncertainty and fear, but from a 2018 perspective it seems there should be a blueprint for this kind of thing.

I guess there is–voting. Protesting. It’s the only choice we have left since our elections have been tampered with. But when there’s tampering, what good does voting really do?

So while I will continue to work on my ’40s brushout and perfecting my ’30s eyeliner and ’50s wardrobe, that doesn’t mean I want us to go back to those years in terms of policy. We have to learn from those times to move forward.

And if you agree with what the US government is doing, kindly see yourself out. In Germany, they  have a saying: If there is a Nazi in the room with ten other people and they’re all chatting with each other, then you have 11 Nazis in the room.


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2 thoughts on “What’s Old is Now New Again”

  1. Again, you hit the nail squarely on the head. Repeatedly. That’s something for all of us to keep in mind when we’re feeling down: there is a huge population of people who are not radicals, and who nod in agreement when we say something truthful.

    I’ve been working on a collection of short stories, myself, set during WWII. You’re spot-on about the social similarities between then and now. But, I would point out that there existed a sense of decency which has been eradicated, since. Hitler did horrible things, no one can deny, and there were people (whole nations) who stood up against him because he was a nasty piece of work, in general. Now, it seems like evil does indeed prevail because good men can’t dare to do anything. How dare we criticize someone for expressing their personal views, even if they are genocidal? (Well, we should dare… like our grandparents did. Light the pitchforks and sharpen the torches!)

    Nothing wrong with vintage fashion, in itself. Hemlines go up and down, and we’re just at an extreme of length, right now. However, there may be a subtext of misguided nostalgia for “the way things were.” Old, white guys had all the power, women were submissive, minorities knew their place… and people died young from polio, or in one of the many wars. Hmm… maybe NOT such good old days worth reminiscing fondly about? However, manufactured goods, like clothes, were made to last; a lesson for today.

    Keep up the good work, because it’s worth doing.

    Like

    1. Thanks. I would not want to live in that time period for many reasons (I’d be dead many times over!) but there is certainly so much we can learn from the past if we’re only willing to look at it.

      Like

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